Medical Schools Hope to Fare Better on State Research Money

The Associated Medical Schools of New York is renewing its request for the state to invest millions of dollars in the NYSTAR Faculty Development Program, an initiative that aims to recruit and retain biomedical researchers.

Jo Wiederhorn, president and C.E.O. of the Associated Medical Schools of New York, a consortium of the state’s 16 public and private medical schools, said she is hoping Governor Andrew Cuomo will put $50 million into this year’s budget, allowing New York to compete with states such as California, Texas, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and Georgia.

The delegation representing the group met with Cuomo administration officials at the end of last month, according to Wiederhorn.

As Capital previously reported, a similar request was met with a cool response in last year’s budget: The program received $650,000.

This year may be different, said Dr. Lee Goldman, dean of health sciences at Columbia University, because the need is even greater.

“What we talked about as a threat is now become a very clear reality,” he said. “This is no longer a hypothetical. People are being wooed away from New York by states that have put in resources.”

Texas, for example, has spent $40 million to recruit 13 scientific and medical researchers from New York in the last four years.

California voters approved a $3 billion investment over 10 years for stem-cell research. Massachusetts committed $1 billion over a decade, and Connecticut put up $600 million.

New York had a similar program. Between 2002 and 2009 the NYSTAR Faculty Development Program spent $36 million on recruitment and retention of leading entrepreneurial research faculty in science and technology fields with strong commercial potential.

But the program, which began under the governorship of George Pataki, was discontinued in 2009, and has never been restored.

“We think we need $50 million to move the needle,” Goldman said. “Only to be used to bring people in and to play defense” against other states.

In addition, Goldman said, the medical schools are willing to match every state dollar with two of their own, a commitment they hope will sweeten the pot for Cuomo.

Wiederhorn declined to discuss what took place during the recent meeting with Cuomo administration officials.

The deans’ case is that investing in Science Technology and Research scientists, colloquially known as STAR, provides a solid return.

A 2010 study from Tripp Umbach estimated that for every $1 of investment, the state sees $7.50 of economic output.

To highlight their case, the deans pointed to Dr. Rudolph Leibel, a professor of pediatrics and medicine, and co-director of Columbia’s Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.

Leibel said that in 2002 he had an offer from out-of-state. Columbia, using $750,000 from the faculty development program, was able to persduae him to stay. Since that time, he has brought in $50 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health and $30 million in private funding. His staff has increased five-fold.

“Other states have dedcided this is too good an opportunity to pass up,” Goldman said. “This in an inflection point.”

Goldman said New York’s inaction leaves federal dollars on the table because as the N.I.H. cuts back and as it becomes harder to obtain federal grants, the states that have the preeminent researchers will attract the more limited federal dollars.

“If we don’t do this we lose federal dollars,” Goldman said. “That’s why other states are doing it.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the original article on the Capital Health website here.